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WVU Libraries to unveil Kittie Blakemore portrait

Kittie Blakemore with Cathy Parson

Head coach Kittie Blakemore poses with Cathy Parson, who became the first woman to be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. She finished her career as Mountaineer women's basketball all-time career scoring leader with 2,113 points from 1980-83 and appeared in a then-school-record 121 games, averaging 17.5 points per outing. For comparison, only Jerry West (2,309) and Rod Hundley (2,180) scored more points in their WVU careers. Photo by WVU Athletics.

West Virginia University Libraries will unveil a portrait of Virginia “Kittie” Blakemore, the first coach of the WVU’s women’s basketball team, April 13 at 4 p.m. in the Downtown Library’s Robinson Reading Room.

“Kittie Blakemore is a pivotal figure in WVU history because of her determination to implement Title IX at WVU and her status as a beloved coach of women’s basketball. We are excited and proud to include her in the archives at the West Virginia and Regional History Center,” WVRHC Interim Director Lori Hostuttler said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Blakemore’s painting is part of the Inclusive Portrait Project, an initiative by WVU Libraries’ Art in the Libraries program to expand the WVRHC portrait collection through the creation of three portraits painted by a current BFA or MFA student or recent graduate who identifies as female. The project is funded by a Women of WVU Grant.

The ceremony will include remarks by Nikki Izzo-Brown, head coach of the Mountaineer women’s soccer team, who credits Blakemore for the University recruiting her away for West Virginia Wesleyan to establish the women’s soccer program in 1995.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and insight Kittie gave me as a young coach,” Izzo-Brown said. “She was a true pioneer for women’s sports and Title IX. Her leadership, understanding of athletics and her compassion for everyone was something truly amazing. I am so honored to be a part of this day to celebrate a woman for whom I feel such respect and great admiration.”

In 1973, WVU Athletics Director Leland Byrd hired Blakemore to be the first coach of WVU’s newly established women's basketball team. Blakemore compiled a 301-214 record over 19 seasons which included the 1989 Atlantic 10 tournament championship, the 1992 regular season A-10 titles and NCAA berths in 1989 and 1992.

Under her leadership, the basketball program produced All-American Rosemary Kosiorek, all-conference players Donna Abbott, Alexis Basil, Olivia Bradley, Jenny Hillen, Cathy Parson and Georgeann Wells, the first player to dunk in a women’s collegiate game.

After retiring from coaching, Blakemore served as WVU’s assistant athletic director for sports development and senior women's administrator until her retirement in 1997.

This year’s Inclusive Portrait artist is Julia Zaph, a Morgantown native who graduated from WVU in 2022 with a Bachelors of Arts in Painting. Zaph said she is grateful to be selected to paint for the Inclusive Portrait Initiative because it made her feel truly connected with her artwork.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed painting Miss Blakemore, and learning about who she was and the kindness she shared was very inspiring for me,” Zaph said.

Last year, Anna Allen, a 2021 WVU BFA painting graduate, painted the portrait of Victorine Louistall Monroe, the first known Black female to receive a graduate degree at WVU and the first Black female to join University’s faculty member.

Blakemore’s portraits will join Monroe’s in the Robinson Reading Room on a semi-permanent basis and then be added to the WVRHC’s collection. The WVRHC holds a small collection of papers that document Blakemore’s professional career and the development of intercollegiate women’s sports at WVU.